31 Aug 2020

Often in medicine we have to work for the good of our patients rather than for appreciation from our patients. If we're treating invisible diseases like diabetes or hypertension, or even potentially life-threatening conditions like pre-eclampsia and malaria, patients often feel that the medication we're prescribing or the induction of labor we're recommending are an unnecessary hassle, and they suspect that they'd probably be fine if they just took care of it at home by traditional methods. Sometimes they take our word for it because the family tells them, "Listen to the doctor!" (appeal to authority is a powerful argument in this culture), and they begrudgingly put up with our treatment.

Occasionally, though, we are surprised by gratitude.

I had performed the curettage for her molar pregnancy. There was no baby, only abnormal placenta-like tissue causing very high levels of the hormone that makes a pregnancy test turn positive. This type of abnormal pregnancy also can cause a lot of bleeding, and she had presented to our hospital for bleeding. After the procedure, though she lived far away by difficult roads, she traveled all the way back to our hospital for her repeat pregnancy test. Positive. The ultrasound showed some remaining tissue. We repeated the procedure. She returned a second time for a post-operative pregnancy test. Negative! Her abnormal bleeding also had not returned. We gave her contraception, and she left. Last week she returned. This time she had no problems, just returned for follow up, and to offer a bag of peanuts as a gesture of thanks for helping her.

One of our fellow missionary families had a sick child this week. After we did her test and started her on treatment, the next day they sent homemade bread and dried apples and nuts (rare treats here) and a sweet thank you note.

On Monday, at my last staff meeting before leaving on vacation, the hospital administrator presented a letter of appreciation for working through the last several months and the challenges of COVID.

Sometimes, this is a difficult job. Sometimes the reward is just in knowing we're doing the right thing (and sometimes we just hope we did the right thing), but it is not a thankless job at all. It is sometimes a very thankful job, and occasionally I feel flooded by the gratitude, and I am grateful.